Two things we can be sure of when your Montreal Canadiens play their hated and hateful Beantown rivals:
• Weird stuff will happen, and
• The Canadiens will win.
That 8-6 freak show in Boston last month?
The proper order was restored last night at the Bell Centre, where the planets resumed their usual orbit and apples that fell out of trees landed on the ground.
The Canadiens won for the fourth time in five games against Boston this season.
A year ago, the Canadiens took the season series 5-1.
The Bruins came to Montreal with aspirations toward joining phast-phading Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Instead, the Bruins were dominated in all aspects of the game, save for thuggery, and the Canadiens, with their season-high fifth W in a row, crept up to within three points of the Northeast Division leaders.
But it came at a cost.
Max Pacioretty – whose parents were at the game – is spending the night in the Montreal General Hospital. He is conscious and able to move his hands and feet.
When – or if – he’ll play hockey again this season …
Late update: Tests were reportedly negative. “Only” a concussion.
It says something about the state of the NHL that we’ve seen worse hits than the one Zdeno Chara laid on Pacioretty, with only seconds remaining in the second period and the Canadiens comfortably in control of the game.
No, Max-Pac didn’t have the puck. He had chipped it up the boards and was in pursuit.
And yes, there’s history between the players.
But had the hit happened anywhere else on the ice, the injury probably would not have been as severe as the horrifying sight of Pacioretty’s head bouncing off the turnbuckle covering a stanchion at the end of the Bruins’ bench.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie Tweeted:
“As for Chara hit, first reaction, subject to review, is that it wasn’t an overly dirty or malcious hit. Interference? Yes. Terrible result.” and “Glass/boards configuration exacerbated it in big way. Started as a simple tho late rub out with bad consequences. What I’m not sure about…is whether a player (Chara) is ultimately responsible for outcome because of turnbuckle effect. Going to need some more looks.”
This reasoning did not sit well with a member of the Montreal media, who disgustingly described McKenzie as “un gros criss de pas bon” and a typical Hab-hating member of the TSN cabal.
The Pacioretty hit dominate sports talk radio, at least until Thursday when the Canadiens face Jaro Halak.
But what Canadiens fans can take away from this game is satisfaction in a job well done – and a successful exorcism of the demons that some feared tormented this allegedly too small/too soft team after the last game in Boston.
Credit Jacques Martin with adroit lineup juggling. Adding Ryan White and Paul Mara, for Tom Pyatt and Yannick Weber, added size and grit to the lineup – a change underscored by White pounding out an early decision over Johnny “I can Beat Up Jaro Spacek Any Day of the Week” Boychuk.
Interesting stat: But the power play and penalty kill sit seventh in the league in terms of efficiency: 20.3 and 84.0, respectively. Martin’s beloved special teams have been superb through the winning streak.
Another interesting stat: The Canadiens’ skaters blocked more shots than Carey Price stopped, 35-30. Paul Mara, James Wisniewski, Hal Gill and Roman Hamrlik had five blocks each. P.K. Subban had four.
That speaks to the Canadiens’ commitment to five-man effort, something they’ve been getting in all three zones lately.
The team has a problem if Pacioretty is gone for a while. He was rounding into what this franchise has sought, unsuccessfully, for a very long time: a power forward who can score.
Their other quest, for a centre with size, may be fulfilled by the constantly improving Lars Eller.
The man-child his teammates call “Larry” was moved to centre when Jeff Halpern joined the Tomas Plekanec line. Halpern as a Top Six is a bit of a stretch, but Eller, Andrei Kopstitsyn and Travis Moen have excelled since they were thrown together – another astute move by the coach whom too few respect.
Martin praised his team’s character. He said the players are “close-knit and support each other.”
Certainly against Boston.
• Schadenfreude Dep’t: Mike Komisarek played 9:24 in the Leafs’ loss to the Islanders.
Paul Mara, making $750,00 this season, played 16:05.